There’s something about freaky medical conditions that fascinates people. Medical dramas like Grey’s Anatomy can freak folks out with wild conditions that are all too real. Several times, folks are afflicted by stuff that looks straight out of a sci-fi movie but actually exist. But sometimes, these conditions cross the line from fascinating into disturbing and then horrific. It can astound you that real people have to put up with these, from life-threatening diseases to disfigurement to conditions that make a normal life a pain to go through. Some are crushed by these conditions but others are able to live a good and normal life, able to impress you and give you hope.
Some of these conditions are rare and thankfully something you never have to worry about. Others can creep in without warning and even hit you without you realizing it. The images they produce are stuff that freaks you out majorly yet you bizarrely can’t look away and find fascinating in a dark way. However, they can haunt you and give you nightmares not to mention make you more than a bit paranoid over catching this stuff somehow. From diseases to freak conditions, there is a lot in the medical world that can lead you to feel horrified. Here are 15 such conditions that you’ll regret checking out yet can never forget.
15 Dissecting Scalp Cellulitis
Imagine having a scalp that makes it look like your brain is on the outside of your body. Sadly, several people have to put up with that look for real. Dissecting scalp cellulitis appears to be caused by blocked or ruptured hair follicles which result in wide-spread infections along the head. While you can have patches of hair, most afflicted are practically bald with a skull that looks misshapen. The bumps are packed with pus that seems to be constantly filling up without end. For reasons unknown, it generally affects African-American males between 20 and 40 years old although it has been known to occur in other ethnic groups and occasionally women.
Those afflicted have to spend several times a day emptying out the pus from their head, a rather sickening process. As it happens, using regular shampoos would just make the condition worse due to the oil involved and even regular treatments can be affected. In major cases, it requires laser surgery to finally get rid of it all as even just lying on a pillow can cause infection and making this one of the more uncomfortable sights imaginable.
14 Parry-Romberg Syndrome
This is a condition so rare that doctors are baffled as to what even causes it. To put it bluntly, it mimics the effects of a stroke but without the stroke part. It can strike without warning, a person perfectly healthy one day then suddenly affected. It causes atrophy in the facial muscles on one side of the cranium, leading to stretching and "sinking". This causes one part of a person’s face to suddenly sink and twist around, the tissue and bone crushing inward to the skull. In a few cases, this can lead to the pigmentation of the hair and the skin in the affected area suddenly turning lighter. It often occurs around the orbital bone for sunken eyes but can also affect the mouth area, leading to a person with a permanent smirk on their faces. Surgeons argue as to whether it’s better to go at it right off or wait for the disease to “settle” the face before trying to fix it. Either way, it’s gripping how a person’s entire face can be shifted like this without any real cause.
Few things can be as terrifying as the idea of parasites inside your body. It’s something freaky and creepy and out of a low-budget horror movie. As it turns out, the condition is all too real. Some folks are unfortunate enough to have flies or maggots enter their body without warning and set up shop deep inside a skull or other part. There they lay eggs which grow into a nest and begin to eat the body from within. They can affect the stomach, eyes and nose, often targeting tissue that’s weak or close to death. The symptoms can often be misdiagnosed because it’s so rare, doctors not using x-rays until it’s too late. The pictures are horrific with botflies crawling out of lips, noses and even eyeballs. Surgery is a last resort to clear them out but always the chance of one surviving to start the cycle over again. A lot of these conditions can make your skin crawl but this takes that idea literally.
The reason for the name of this condition is sadly all too obvious. The causes vary from worms inside the body to a genetic condition to some sort of cancer. Whatever the cause and actual name, the results are the same. A part of the body suddenly grows abnormally large, to often inhuman levels. One hand can be normal sized, the other with a palm as big as a basketball and fingers thick as a pipe. One leg can be thick as a tree trunk or on an ankle spread out massively. The truly unfortunate are those affected in the nether regions with tumors and growths up to thirty pounds in weight. Of course, many are familiar with the “Elephant Man” type that leads to a head so massive that lying down can literally be fatal. Some might crack that name could also be because once you see an image of someone with a limb or body part three times as big as it should be, it’s a sight you can never forget.
You heard it constantly from your dentist growing up. Take care of your teeth, brush and floss constantly in order to avoid this. It’s still mentioned in ads for toothpaste and mouthwash as something to avoid. But have you ever looked at what it actually is? Lack of proper care causes the gums of the mouth to start to dry out, leading to excessive bleeding. The gums then become inflamed, leading to massive pain whenever you eat or drink. Then there are the teeth itself. Yellowing is only the least of the problems as cavities can grow common to the point where you’d need multiple root canals to try to solve things. The teeth themselves then become crooked and brittle, easier to break if you bite down on the wrong thing and even jutting out at offbeat angles. To top it all off, your mouth soon produces such bad breath that no amount of mints can cover it up. It all shows why you should take proper care of your teeth to avoid such a terrible sight.
10 Treacher-Collins Syndrome
It has a few technical names but it’s better known by the names of the doctors who first detailed the condition in 1900. It affects roughly 50,000 children a year, mainly in Europe but has affected those in the United States. Those affected can show signs at birth although others take a few years before it becomes evident. It causes disfiguring to the head and face with tiny ears, a mouth out of place, a nose out of joint and a large and misshapen head. Some cases are even more extreme as children have been born with what appears to be their faces on the interior of their heads, “mouths” little more than slots and even eyeballs that are turned inward. If the condition isn’t too serious, some reconstructive surgery can allow a mostly normal life but others are cursed with a severe condition. It’s sad to see in children although some people are able to live with it and it showcases a rather troubling condition to be born with.
9 Necrotizing Fasciitis (AKA Flesh-Eating Disease)
Flesh-eating disease. The very mention is enough to make your skin crawl but seeing it in person (or at least a photo) is something else. Diagnosing it is difficult as too often, it can look like just a skin infection of some sort and then suddenly erupt. It usually enters through a cut or burn and cases range across the world so no telling where it can hit. The sores soon grow until the skin starts to basically dissolve, sometimes within just hours. If untreated, the fatality rate is roughly 73 percent.
Some cases can be worse than others as the disease can be held back to just a small part of the body. In other cases, it can tear a body apart, causing a lot of damage to the point where the bone can be seen underneath. Sometimes, doctors can clean the infected portion out enough to stop the growth but many cases require full amputation of a limb to stop the spread. Even after that, there’s still the dangers of stomach problems and a hampered immune system. The fact that this can hit so fast makes it more terrifying as a simple rash can turn into a life-threatening horror.
Here’s a condition that can range from just unsightly to downright horrific. Porphyrins are vital to hemoglobin, the key to blood that makes the entire body go. Most people have a well-balanced level but in some individuals, that level can be much higher or lower than required and that leads to problems. The most common is blotches across the skin, usually the hands or back, that look like a severe case of acne. Those are treatable and it’s mostly an inconvenience.
Sadly, some people are affected by a much more severe case which leads to the nickname of a “vampire disease.” This is because sunlight literally causes agony to a person’s skin as the lack of hemoglobin hurts the immune system and makes the skin massively inflamed. Indeed, many believe the disease was the basis for vampire legends as folks affected by it do tend to have incredibly pale skin and keeping to themselves. It’s a terrible affliction and proves the facts are nowhere near as alluring as the legends.
7 Harlequin Ichthyosis
Thankfully quite rare, this condition tends to hit infants at birth and when it first appeared in 1750, it was common to believe it was fatal. Someone can live with it but not in a pleasant way. From birth, a child’s skin is encased in basically an armor of white cracked skin, which actually looks in panels. Some of that can fade and peel away as the child matures but it requires constant moisturizing to keep the child well. That’s a major concern as the “paneling” makes it easier for diseases and infections to seep in and affect the immune system.
The fatality rate has thankfully lessened but it still requires constant care as a person matures. Even adults with the disease are afflicted with faces that look like newborn skin with cracked layers, no eyebrows and little hair. A few are able to handle it well but others have to deal with a rough condition that makes this as far away from a “harlequin” romantic condition as possible.
6 Cutaneous Leishmaniasis
Often linked to leprosy, this condition can also be caused by bites from sandflies. People have been known to be treated for it only to suffer lesions months or even years afterward without warning. Some of these can be small and not much different than your regular pustule. Others, however, can be massive reddish gashes that make it look like you’re peeking right under the skin down to veins. The arms are usually affected the most but others have them on their feet, back, chest and faces, horrible blotches that those affected have a rough time living with.
Some cases are tough as treatments for one type of leishmaniosis won’t work for others. That’s not to mention the fact some types can be fatal for those afflicted. Oddly, some forms just heal on their own for reasons doctors can’t understand while others can resist most everything, even surgery, and return bad as ever. While not all forms are fatal, the sight of these horrible blotches makes you hope to never be hit by it.
5 Neonatal Progeroid Syndrome
Most people would think being able to not gain weight is a good thing. Sadly, some will argue that majorly. Progeroid diseases are linked to physical aging, thus making people look older or younger than they truly are. In the case of neonatal progeroid, it basically means that a person is unable to gain weight, no matter how much they eat. It affects infants and can often cause an early death although some are able to live into adulthood. However, they are left with bodies that look little more than skeletons, large heads, teeth that seem to push out of their mouths and sunken skin.
The most famous person with this condition is Lizzie Velasquez, a teenager who was labeled “the ugliest girl in the world” after a video of her was found online. Rather than be hurt, Velasquez used this to become a motivational speaker and encourage others not to be judged on appearance. It’s a good message to show how these people shouldn’t be outcasts simply for being born with such a bad condition that makes you think twice about wishing to be thinner.
It comes in a variety of forms and names (several of them quite unpronounceable) but they all have one thing in common: Tapeworms. While animals are often hit hard, human beings can also be struck by this horrific condition, many totally unaware of it. It occurs often if you visit the wrong places in Africa or South America, with drinking the wrong fluid or a bite from an animal. This creates inside a large cyst that forms in the liver and those affected might believe they just have a slight stomachache or bug of some type. In the latter, they’re a lot more right than they know as the “cyst” is filled with eggs that hatch to create worms.
Medical shows are filled with stories of people who came to the hospital for just a minor treatment and then next thing they knew, they were spitting out a massive worm up to a foot long. While medication can help, quite often, the worms have to be removed via surgery. Some folks are unlucky enough to have worms break out of their legs or more…uncomfortable areas of the body. However you name it, the condition is one that’s guaranteed to make you squirm.
3 Cancrum Oris
Also known as Noma, this disease is a sadly common sight in the poorer sections of Africa, particularly in children. A horrific form of gum disease, it causes ulcers to form inside the mouth and then grow, melting the flesh off the lips and gums. Thus, you witness the heartbreaking and disturbing sight of children with their entire mouths exposed to the open air, teeth showing and more. Some cases have their mouths distorted and twisted, teeth and gums even mixing together. Combined with the club lip sadly as common in Africa and it’s a horrible disease as many would need full-scale reconstructive surgery to look anywhere near “normal.”
It doesn’t matter what age it hits, having much of your inner mouth exposed is a grisly sight and in children, it’s even more horrible. Many humanitarian groups are trying to stop the drought and disease that causes it but as it is, it’s a terrible view of how bad this continent can be for people.
2 Epidermodysplasia Verruciformis
It comes in a variety of forms but it all boils down to a very simple nickname: Tree Man Disease. Better known as HPV, this has been showcased in medical dramas like Grey’s Anatomy but the real thing is even freakier to see. It occurs when somehow the genes of the human body are infected by an influx of zinc that overwhelms the usual genetic balance. This creates warts, usually on the hands and feet that grow quickly and solidify into a bark-like thickness. Thus, the common nickname of “Tree Man” that has been showcased on various medical shows. It seems to mostly affect men, female cases exceptionally rare and a few unfortunate souls have it on their face as well.
The disease is also known as Lewandowsky-Lutz dysplasia, named after the two physicians who first discovered it. The agony is immense for those affected by it and more than a few cases where the “bark” actually houses insects inside. There have been a few cases of successful surgery but the genetics allow the bark to grow back. It’s among the creepier medical conditions ever recorded and no wonder it fascinates in many ways.
1 Hidradenitis Suppurativa
This isn’t life-threatening to be sure. It is, however, a condition that makes life utterly miserable for those who have it. The cause of it is debated a lot among medical experts ranging from obesity to bad genes. The basic effect begins as just a set of small pimple-like appearances, usually under the armpits. However, as time goes on, they connect the sweat glands to abscess under the skin and, for lack of a better term, you can basically sweat out pus. As the condition worsens, the infection gets larger and so those affected basically– you get the idea.
As nasty as that is, it’s worse as some folks have the effect not only on armpits but also the buttocks. One man regularly posts videos of how he has to change bandages on his rear end roughly four times a day. The only real treatment is medication as the surgical option involves removing a major part of the skin, removing a layer to “tie up” the glands and then closing everything up. Many have to put up with constantly draining and bandaging their bodies and while it may not be threatening to life, it doesn’t make for a comfortable one.